Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind with J.C. Hiatt, Full Stack Developer

J.C. Hiatt is a Full Stack Developer, working at a e-commerce company, speaker and he’s also writing a book on React.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I originally had a strong interest in InfoSec when I was 12 — spending a lot of time on hacker forums and learning about how computers and networks work. Then, I got started building websites when I was 13 after teaching myself about HTML and CSS.

I ended up getting paid to build websites in high school, and ended up starting a web design firm with a friend of mine. It was short-lived (pretty much just one summer), but we may good money for a couple of teenagers!

Later on in high school, I started booking and promoting concerts, in addition to building websites and learning social media marketing. After high school, I worked for a few months at an ad agency (building WordPress websites), and then for ~8 months as a Digital Marketing Manager at an aviation startup.

I left there to start my own ad agency, and grew that for a few years until 2016, when I decided I wanted to do more product work. I closed the agency, did some consulting for a couple of years, and then got my first engineering job in 2018.

Today, I work as a Full Stack Developer at a medium-sized e-commerce company. I do a fair amount of speaking and writing (I’m actually writing a book on React, releasing later this year), and I enjoy working in the JavaScript ecosystem.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Typically, I wake up and after putting myself together, I’ll have a coffee, read scripture, and pray.

After that, I usually go through what I call “Comms” — I have so many communication channels (multiple emails, multiple Slacks, multiple Twitters, etc.) that I usually need a dedicated 30 minutes first thing in the morning to sift through everything.

Anything requiring urgent action gets pushed to the top of my to-do list, and anything requiring a response I can write in under 2 minutes gets a response. Everything else usually gets snoozed and prioritized for the weekend/when I have time to get around to it.

After Comms, I usually take care of things that are on my Must-Do list for the day. Sometimes, this will take the entire day.

Generally, I’ll take a break around 3pm or 4pm to work out in my garage, and then I’ll eat dinner, hang with my wife for a bit, and then put another hour or two of work in before bed. Sometimes one of these hours is playing Call of Duty instead

Before bed, I make the next day’s to-do list. I have a weekly to-do list that I make every Sunday night, and items off that and prioritize them in one of 3 categories: MUST, FLEX, and STRETCH.

  • MUST is obvious — these are things I MUST do before my head hits a pillow at night.
  • FLEX is things that would be good to do, especially if I’m feeling extra productive or “in the zone.”
  • And STRETCH is for things that are on my radar for the day, but will most likely get. pushed (and prioritized higher) in the coming days, unless I’m absolutely crushing it that day.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yep, my work schedule is extremely flexible. I work for an amazing company — I’m not micro-managed at all. I have complete freedom to prioritize my day the way that works for me as a human, and I’m really thankful for that.

Being remote and flexible means I can step away for a bit when I have other things in my head, or I can hop on at midnight because I’m having a sudden stroke of genius. Obviously, I still have meetings and such, but outside of meetings my work day is pretty flexible.

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4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me, it means remembering why I’m working (and working so hard) — I really love to work, but I also don’t merely work for work’s sake. I work so my family can be provided for. I work so, as far as I have control over it, my children can grow up comfortable and have an inheritance. I work so I can help those in need around me. It’s just an added bonus that I actually love working and enjoy what I do.

Keeping these things in my mind helps me stay incredibly motivated. If for some reason I feel myself burning out, I’ll just work a little less for a couple of weeks or take a few days off, and I’ll spend extra time with wifey and extra time playing Call of Duty or working on a side project (not for money, just for enjoyment!).

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

  1. Setting attainable goals
  2. Always keep a prioritized to-do list
  3. Practice gratitude
  4. Always be improving — physically, mentally, spiritually
  5. Don’t be afraid to chase an idea, and fail
  6. Surround yourself with people who care for you and are motivating themselves and others around them
  7. Don’t waste your time

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

  1. The 4-Hour Work Week
  2. Rework: Change the Way You Work Forever
  3. Extreme Ownership
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People
  5. 12 Rules for Life

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Easy! Work out.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Jocko Wilink.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Don’t be out-worked, don’t be out-played!

In all seriousness, it’s simple. Put enough guard rails in your life and practice self-awareness — you’ll know when you need to stop the playing and work more, and you’ll know when you need to take a break and recharge.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.